FRAMINGHAM – Arthur Wade Blackman Jr., whose acclaimed acumen in aeronautical engineering and operational and financial management took him on a journey from a rural community to the White House Science Advisory Committee and to leadership of an international foundation, died peacefully on 24 May 2022, at age 94, surrounded by his family, in Framingham.
Blackman’s personal values—as a man of faith, family, humanity, and a progressive political vision—were as admired and influential as his exceptional professional contributions to the nation and the world. “Wade was the golden boy of the family,” says his cousin A.K. (Temo) Callahan, Jr., “someone to emulate. He never lost his gentlemanly mien nor his charming wit which took him as far in life as did his keen intellect and fine education.”
Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on 11 October 1927 to Arthur Wade Blackman Sr., an expert machinist, and Nancy Dean Callahan Blackman, a journalist and community-builder, Blackman was the nephew of the long-time Tuscaloosa attorney A.K. (Temo) Callahan and the prominent local educators Mary Spiller and Clara McRimmon, as well as Veterans’ Hospital chaplain Elias R. Callahan. He attended Tuscaloosa High School, and in 1945, at age 17, joined the U.S. Navy to do his part in WWII, serving stateside in Louisiana.
He received his B.S.’49 in Engineering from the University of Alabama, and an M.S.’51 in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1965, he was awarded the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in Industrial Management for a year of advanced study and earned an M.S. ’66 in Industrial Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Blackman obtained 13 patents for United Aircraft Corp., authored 50 publications, and was a member of Tau Beta Pi, an honor society of the engineering profession.
The early part of Blackman’s career was spent with the United Technologies Research Center, where he was the Chief of Propulsion. He then served in the U.S. Government on the Science Advisory Committee to President Ford, and as a senior administrator for the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), after which he became CEO and Executive Director of the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, helping to develop and implement state-of-the-art water infrastructure in Israel. He also served in roles at the engineering firm Stone and Webster, at the American Research and Development Inc., and as the President of Farmington Capital Management Corporation, in addition to posts on several boards of directors.
In 1966, Blackman received the Goddard Award, the highest honor from the American Institute of Aeronautics, for “contributions to the understanding of the phenomenon of combustion instability and for his recognition of acoustical liners as a method of suppressing such instabilities in turbojet afterburners and rocket engines.” At the time, The Tuscaloosa News reported that the award is “presented for a brilliant discovery or a series of outstanding contributions over a period of time, in the engineering science of propulsion or energy conversion. It carries an honorarium of $10,000 and a gold medal donated by Mrs. Esther Goddard, widow of Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the American rocket pioneer for whom the award is named.”
In 1966, while living in Hartford, Connecticut, Wade met Sarah (Sally) Dalton, a specialist in childhood education and psychology. The couple married in January of 1976. They lived in Alexandria, Virginia during Wade’s years of service for the U.S. Government, and then in Israel for two years during his work advancing the country’s water infrastructure.
In 1979, Sally and Wade moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts, where they raised their family, and opened their home on countless occasions for holiday gatherings and festive birthdays; to care for aging parents; and as a home to numerous foster children. They have two sons: Wade Blackman III, an attorney and aide to Congresswoman Katherine Clark; and Schuyler, a classicist and marketing executive; and a daughter Ashley, a visual artist and illustrator. Wade III and his wife Danielle are the parents of Magnolia and Carter. Schuyler and his wife Nicole are the parents of Dorothea. Ashley lives with her partner, Izzy Grigoli.
Treasured for his stories and accounts of growing up in a rural area in the 1930s, Wade was also a wonderful listener, sought by family and friends alike for astute, kind counsel on a wide range of subjects — from launching a business to furniture restoration. His cousin Ted Callahan recalls that some early counsel from Wade, “completely changed my life. Wade was always my hero,” Ted says, “and when he walked across the Crescent Ridge Road in Tuscaloosa one day and suggested to me that Harvard had the best MBA program in the country, I casually said ‘OK, I will go there!’ Three years later I had graduated from Harvard, married, and our first child was on the way!”
A longtime member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Wellesley, Wade served, along with his wife Sally, as a Sunday School teacher there for several years, and later as a member of the Vestry, assisting in worship, communion, and finances.
Although Wade’s life took him far from Tuscaloosa, he remained devoted to his Alabama family and friends — and to the Crimson Tide, the football team of the University of Alabama. In football season, he could often be seen sporting the houndstooth style hat immortalized by legendary ‘Bama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. A.K Callahan Jr. also notes that “On his visits home to Tuscaloosa Wade taught us the finer point of chess and bridge, but he wasn’t above pitching horseshoes on a sleepy afternoon as well.”
Reflecting on their father’s influence, his children recall that “while he certainly had his opinions he always encouraged and supported us to chase our passions even if they led us in directions (like classics instead of engineering) that he didn’t understand.”
In addition to his wife, children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren, Wade is survived by many loving relatives in the extended Callahan and Dalton families.
A memorial service is planned for July 9, to be held at Lookout Farm in Natick, Massachusetts.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to National Society of Black Engineers Scholarship Fund at Donate nsbe.org, whose mission Wade found inspiring.